Helping Multigenerational Households Thrive

Jan 27, 2017

Helping Multigenerational Households Thrive

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Today, more Americans are living in multigenerational households than ever before. Whether due to continual economic shifts, changes in attitudes toward living as larger family units, or just cultural preferences it’s clear that the United States is leaning more toward the acceptance of this reality. And while it’s somewhat a matter of fact that families have been living in similar configurations for much of history, learning how to help a multigenerational household thrive in today’s world is somewhat of a different story.

There isn’t always a perfect solution for family matters, but in the end, there are surely general ways that people can cooperate and allow their household to really reach its full potential. Living with multiple generations can have its pros and cons, and yet learning how to really get the most out of what may or may not be a voluntary household arrangement is what we’ll focus on here.

First off, multigenerational family living is defined as a household including two or more adult generations, or one that includes grandparents and grandchildren. According to the Pew Research Center, 2014 saw a record 60.6 million people living in multigenerational households – that’s roughly 19% of the U.S. population. Though these household configurations were increasingly common in all racial groups, Hispanic, Asian, and African families were even more likely to live in multigenerational families than Caucasians. And though recent years have revealed that young adults are the age group most likely to live in multigenerational households, preferences to age-in-place and among other economic factors have many seniors living with family too.

Helping Your Senior Thrive 

Even with smaller, “traditional” family sizes, there can be many challenges to living in a shared household. Add a senior loved one to the mix, or someone who may need frequent assistance with the activities of daily living, and the situational complexity increases a bit more. So how can families living in multigenerational households thrive? By addressing these challenges:

Designating Personal Space

It’s unlikely that your home was ever designed to accommodate several generations under the same roof, but alas, there you are! Living with so many different age groups can often lead to difficulties in dealing with personal space, whether it’s matters of sound, privacy, or just conflicting activities and preferences. People come in all types of personalities and temperaments, so setting boundaries for where others may come and go is a good place to start. You don’t want to be living on top on one another, while isolating everyone may not be the best solution either – it really comes down to communicating whose space is whose and how it is supposed to function.

Managing Money Correctly

Unsurprisingly, the bigger the family the larger the bills. Whether it’s water, electricity, food and other groceries, spreading the weight is sometimes more of a necessity than simply proper etiquette. For those able to work, it’s recommended that they do so, especially when a senior loved one may need many medical resources or specific amenities for their care. There are few more common stressors than being short on cash for many multigenerational families. For those receiving care or acting as a caregiver, there are resources available to help ease the financial burden on a household. Otherwise, proper and transparent budgeting goes a long way even if it stirs some initial conflicts. 

Setting Healthy Schedules

With so many people living under one roof, coming and going at different times, it can be hard to organize and coordinate a cooperative household. The kids may need to head to soccer practice, your senior may have a doctor’s appointment, and you’re still working full or part-time to make ends meet. Finding time to get all of this done doesn’t just fall out of thin air – it takes planning and plenty of communication. Think about how people can stay informed in a household. Maybe you’ll want to hang a large calendar with the month’s activities, or even utilize things like Google Calendar to have alerts sync to everyone’s phone, tablet or computer! No matter how you achieve this, it takes a lot of discussion as to who will handle what and when ahead of time. 

Providing Senior Care

It may be that your household has grown to accommodate several generations as a result of your senior loved one needed more care than before. This is very common and something that can take time transitioning to. Firstly, identifying the needs of your senior will allow you to figure out what resources will be needed and how much time you can devote to providing that care. Since the cost of care can be very expensive, especially if you’re taking time off of work to do so, it may be time to consider what resources are available for caregivers, or even what senior living option might be an appropriate transition. Some people are even turning to digital crowdfunding as a way to pay for senior care.

There are many, many things to consider when helping your multigenerational household thrive, but really most of your bases can be covered with efficient communication and organizing everyone’s responsibilities. If there really isn’t a feasible way to sustain so many people in one place, it may be time to talk about finding a senior living option for your loved one. As always, we’ll be here to ensure our seniors find the best possible solution to their golden years whether through assisted or independent living, as well as a variety of other accommodating options.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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